HDL-cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol that lowers the risk of heart disease. One way to raise levels of this good form of blood fat is through exercise - but how much do you need to make a difference? Find out what type of exercise is best and how long and how hard you have to work to boost your HDL level
There are several types of fats or lipids in your blood. The one most people are concerned about is their LDL-cholesterol, the kind that sticks to arteries and increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. But no less important when it comes to heart health is HDL-cholesterol, the “good” form of cholesterol that like a knight in shining armor removes fatty deposits from your arteries and takes them back to the liver where they can be broken down. That’s why a high level of HDL protects against heart disease. One of the best ways to raise your HDL level is through exercise but taking a low-intensity walk in the park won’t have a major impact on your good cholesterol. How much exercise do you need to give your HDL level a boost?
Exercise and HDL: How Much Exercise Do You Need to Get the Benefits?
Both intensity and duration of exercise have an impact on HDL levels. In men, research shows that exercising at a moderate intensity, about 75% of maximum heart rate, raises HDL levels, while exercising at lower intensities has minimal benefit. Women also get a bump up in HDL when they do regular, moderate-intensity exercise, and exercising at higher intensities doesn’t seem to have any additional benefit, although it’s good from a cardiovascular standpoint.
Duration of exercise is also a factor. In male runners, 7 to 10 hours of running at a moderate intensity seems to be the minimum required to see a significant change in HDL levels. For people who don’t run, a caloric expenditure of 1,000 calories or more a week through moderate-intensity exercise is sufficient to have an impact. Women seem to need even larger volumes of moderate-intensity exercise to see an increase in HDL, but the most active women have higher average HDL levels than ones who are less active.
What Does This Mean?
Aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity or greater five days a week for 30 minutes or more should be enough to raise your HDL level, but it can take a year or more of regular aerobic exercise to see maximal benefits. Working out at a higher intensity may be more beneficial from the standpoint of your heart, but it won’t necessarily raise your HDL any more than moderate-intensity aerobic workouts will.
Other Ways to Raise Your HDL Level
Exercise isn’t the only way to give your HDL a heart-healthy boost. Here are some other tips for increasing your good cholesterol level:
Choose healthier fats. Monounsaturated fats in nuts and olive oil and polyunsaturated fats in fatty fish have a positive impact on HDL cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in your diet. Avoid trans-fat. Trans-fat is unhealthy for your heart and your blood vessels.
Enjoy wine in moderation. Drinking one or two glasses of wine a day can positively impact HDL, but don’t overdo it. Women at high risk for breast cancer should probably avoid alcohol since research shows it may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Eat more fiber. Preliminary research suggests that adding more fiber to your diet increases HDL and lowers levels of LDL-cholesterol.
Control your weight. People who are overweight or obese have lower HDL levels on average and higher LDL-cholesterol levels than people of normal weight.
The Bottom Line?
Regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise not only improves your aerobic capacity, it also raises HDL and lowers your risk of heart disease. Now there’s another reason to put your exercise shoes on.
For more “fit” tips contact our fitness director, Noelle Lusardi, at email@example.com!
Medscape.com website. ” Raising HDL in Clinical Practice: Clinical Strategies to Elevate HDL”.
University of New Mexico. ” A Review of the Impact of Exercise on Cholesterol Levels”
Mayo Clinic. “High Cholesterol”